Forme et fond

I remember, from working in advertising in France, the slippery distinction between ‘forme’ and ‘fond’ – broadly style versus substance.

Much of organisational life lies in the interplay between these two; what’s the underlying ‘thing’ you’re tackling and how do you package and talk about it; as Wikipedia has it here.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned at work: it’s once you’ve sorted what you’re going to say; how you then say it will largely determine how it goes down – and that’s all about tone. Especially if it’s bad news, when some honesty and some humility are required.

The flip side though, is this week I’ve recognised when it comes to what others ask of me: I’m much better focusing on the ‘fond’ than the ‘forme’. 

Forget the wrapper, ditch the interpretation, don’t fret about being patronised, ignore any implied criticism, leave aside the irritation, accept any humiliation; just spot the action arising.

99 times out of 100, all that interpretation just makes you brood and ruminate: “can’t you see I’m busy”; “you really think I hadn’t thought of that”; or indeed occasionally “how bloody dare you…”

Leave all that alone and simply spot the action arising – edit the document, chase the right person, connect the protagonists; get the thing done. And the miracle of this approach is… No brooding (well not much anyway), problems solved, stuff sorted and even the odd word of thanks!

I conclude: if you want someone else to something; it’s all in the tone. If you are being asked to do something; ignore the style and focus on the substance – the action arising – however mundane, trivial or irritating; and do it directly. 

Rumination is ruination; happiness lies in action.

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